"Botanists flock to Stanhope, not to seek the blooms on the local moors or in Woodlands, but because of the fossil tree now almost embedded into the churchyard wall. This was found between Stanhope and Edmondbyers and has been identified as a giant plant similar to the small mares tails which still grow today in the dry areas of the district. Some 250 million years ago what is now the moorlands of Upper Teesdale was a huge area of swampland full of giant trees. This one has been so long in the ground that it looks and feels as smooth as gun metal. Stan means stoney and Hope means a valley."
Discovering County Durham. Ron and Marlen Freetly. 1994.
The stepping stones and ford alongside are located at the west end of Stanhope down a minor road and give access to the B6278 road which goes across the mooors to Middleton-in-Teesdale.
The ford has been the scene of many vehicle rescues when the river waters make it dangerous to cross. Though large warning signs are posted on either side the problem has now made it necessary following an inquiry, for Durham County Council to close it permanently from February 2012. An alternative route is available over the old bridge west of the town, adding a mile or so to the journey. Barriers had been erected at the ford to prevent motorists from attempting to cross in winter when it was also closed before closure became permanent. Both the Fire Brigade and RAF rescue helicopters have been involved in rescuing drivers trapped in their vehicles, sometimes after being washed downstream. The stepping stones are concrete and are used by visitors and locals alike.
Stanhope is an old market town and is popular with visitors. The Durham Dales centre has information, crafts and a tea room. In an attractive setting with moors to north and south it lies at the current terminus of the Weardale Railway and pubs and shops are to be found on the long main street. An agricultural show is held in September of each year.